On 3 May Italian police arrested 19 Alitalia airport baggage handlers accused of stealing cash, cameras, telephones, jewels and other valuables from passengers' luggage, after a sting operation at Rome's Fiumicino international airport.
A further 30 Alitalia employees at Fiumicino are under investigation as part of the major Stive Pulite (“Clean Holds”) probe which was carried out at various Italian airports with the cooperation of the national airline.
In addition to Rome, police are investigating 37 baggage handlers at airports in Bologna, Bari, Verona, Naples, Milan Linate, Palermo and Lamezia Terme in the southern region of Calabria where the investigation began 18 months ago.
The alleged thefts occurred during the loading and unloading of luggage in aeroplane cargo-holds, where baggage handlers can normally work unobserved by others. However footage recorded by hidden cameras caught workers apparently breaking into suitcases and rummaging through passengers' belongings before pocketing valuables.
The accused have been charged with criminal offences including theft and aggravated theft. If convicted, they could face up to six years in prison. In some cases they have been charged with deliberately damaging luggage they were unable to break into.
Alitalia stated that passengers who lost their belongings have been reimbursed.